My Wife Has Returned To Us

As you may remember from a previous post (or if you live nearby, the strange and plaintive wails that have been emanating from my house in the night-time) my wife has been away for the past 3 weeks.

Barcelona is full of amazing architecture.

She was teaching digital marketing in Barcelona, and by all accounts having a great time of it, seeing the city, soaking up the ambiance, basking (or should that be Basquing?) in the warm Spanish sun, eating jamon and olives.  Meanwhile, my son and I were shivering in the cold that makes up Chicago winter  (the winter has been relatively mild, but there were a few cold days, and I am exaggerating for dramatic effect.  I am a thespian, so sue me!)

We picked her up last night from the airport, and I have to say that  it was/is great to have her back.  In fact, so much so that my son wept when she opened the door of the car, and insisted that she sit in the back with him for the 45 minute ride home for the airport.  (Apparently I do not rate as more than a glorified Lyft driver.  And I didn’t even get a tip!)

So he wept when she left, and he wept when she returned, but in between, there was very little weeping about missing mom.  We were pretty busy, and we went on some fun adventures. In the  3 weeks that she was gone, we did the following:

  • saw 5 plays (Romeo and Juliet, Year I Didn’t Go To School, Hamilton, The Illusionists, and Actor’s Gymnasium circus show Quest)
  • saw 1 movie in cinema (Lego Batman) and 4 movies at home( first 2 Indiana Jones movies, Newsies, & The Princess Bride,)
  •  drove to Indiana over President’s day to hang out at the farm with cousins.
  • celebrated his half birthday with cousins.
  •  checked out a new Ninja warrior place.
  • had 5 playdates with friends.
  • visited my wife’s ailing Grandmother three times, once in the Hospital.
My son and I at Hamilton!
My wife missed it due to being abroad
(hmmmm… she’s always a broad!)

This is in addition to all of the regular stuff we do, like go to fencing class, speed skating practice, Sunday School, and Pilates class. And homework.

In short, we kept our days filled.  And it’s not like we didn’t have any contact with her when she was in Barcelona. Thanks to  the wonders of modern technology, we probably face-timed once every two/three days, got taken on a tour of her apartment, and even saw the streets of Barcelona.

Even with the busyness and the facetiming, there was still plenty of room to miss my wife.

Here are a few takeaways from spending this 3 week foray into being single.

TAKEAWAYS FROM 3 WEEKS OF BEING A SINGLE PARENT

1) I’M GLAD I’M NOT A SINGLE PARENT

While my workload as the primary caregiver of my son did not change dramatically while my wife was away (I do all the cooking and cleaning and carting already) There is something to be said for having even a tiny break from the drama of raising a kid.  Being able to chill out for a couple of minutes without having to worry is a luxury, and one that I like.  I got a fair amount of chill out time with her gone, but not enough.  And I only have one kid.  If I had more, and I was single, not sure how I would stay sane.

2) I LOVE MY WIFE

I already knew this, but it was reinforced.  It’s not just the man/woman time that I missed (although I did, and quite frankly I often miss that when she’s here!) It’s the sharing of life’s adventures together.  I know that she really wishes that I was there to see some of the things she saw in Barcelona, and I really wished she’d been to the plays, or seen our son’s amazing love for doing Ninja stuff.  Yes, she got to see it on Instagram, but it’s not the same thing.

A post shared by Adam G (@kafclown) on

3) I AM CONTENT BEING BY MYSELF

This might sound like it contradicts point two above, but it doesn’t.  I missed my wife, and I love my wife, but I also like being by myself.  Not having to squabble over what show to watch, or having a discussion about who is going to take a shower first, or even not asking me to turn down my computer when I’m watching my show in one room while she watches television in our bed was pretty glorious.  Overall though, I’d rather squabble than be alone.

4) MY WIFE USES A LOT OF RESOURCES

I always suspected that my wife has more dirty clothes, more dirty plates, and uses a disproportionate amount of toilet paper.  Her 3 weeks away show me that I was right.
  •  I went from doing a load of laundry 5 days a week when she is here to doing laundry twice a week.
  •  I typically do the dishes once a day when she’s here, I did them 3 times a week while she was gone.
  • We went through 3 rolls of toilet paper in the 3 weeks she was gone, instead of 2 rolls + a week typically.

I still love you darling, but in this squabble,  like most others, I am right.

The April Fool’s Joke This Year: Logan

April Fools jokes are a little cruel.  They are designed that way.  In some sense, you are lying to a loved one in order to fool them.  On another sense, it is all in good fun, and as long as no one gets hurt physically or emotionally, I can justify it.

For me, some of my favorite moments growing up were little practical jokes that we played on each other– especially hiding when somebody comes in, and then jumping out and scaring them.  My dad used to love to do that, and he would laugh uproariously when you got fooled, or when he got fooled.  Sharing a joke together is to me an important part of being a parent.

They are now some of my favorite memories of my now-deceased father.

I guess I’m hoping that likewise, these moments, even if they can be a little frustrating in the short-term, will turn into some of my son’s favorite memories of me.

An April Fool’s Pranks from 1857- there is
no Washing the Lions Ceremony.

Each year, I’ve played some pretty good practical jokes on my son– one year, I brought him to school even though school was closed for the day (which meant he had to wake up super early!)  I made up for that by letting him have donuts for breakfast.

Another year, I convinced him it was snowing and he put on his snow boots and all of his other stuff to go to school and went outside only to find out that it was a beautiful day. (Here’s that video below)

He’s tried to get me too, (when he was two he told me (pretty unconvincingly) that he had pooed in his bed.  It’s all in the delivery.

You can read about (and see some video) of some of my best April Fool’s pranks here

This year,  no video.  I decided to try a different tack.  It’s a Saturday, so school was out. I knew he knew it was April Fool’s Day (we had discussed planning to play a trick on my wife, but it didn’t really pan out).  I didn’t try to surprise him with something crazy.  Instead, after breakfast and he was busy reading, we had this conversation, very casually.

Here’s our conversation (with my thought process)


ME: “Okay, Mom and I’ve discussed it, and we’ve decided to take you to see the movie Logan. I think you are able to handle it. We’ll go to the matinee today.”
HIM: “No, I don’t want to see that, I want to see King Kong.” 


MY THOUGHTS: What? He wanted to see King Kong? I thought he wants to see Logan. I’m sure he told me he wants to see Logan.” King Kong might have worked. OH well, too late now. 

ME: “No, I’ve already bought the tickets, we have to go.”
HIM: Starts to cry and whimper
MY THOUGHTS: I can’t believe he’s crying about this. He must have figured it out. What? He’s really crying? I better go tell him. I walk over to him on the couch. Those are real tears! He’s really upset!! I pick him up in my arms like a baby and say:
ME: Guess what, little bear. “April Fool’s! “
HIM: More crying, and then finally laughing that he really got got.

I had no idea he was going to take it that way.  I really thought he’d be excited about Logan. I’m glad we got through it, and I was able to make him laugh at the end, and of course to REALLY get him, but felt bad after I made him cry about going to the movies.  Not that he should cry over something so ridiculous. And I have lots of experience making kids cry. I am a professional clown after all! Anyway, it’s making me re-think practical joking.  I am sure I will still do it, but I don’t want to make the kid CRY.
What do you think? And what was your prank for April Fools?

Passover has passed me over

NOTE: This post is going to get a little more personal than I normally get, so feel free to skip if you choose to.  I know that some of my readers are primarily about the cultural stuff I write about, or maybe the parenting tips, or who knows, even the sponsored stuff I occasionally do.  But this is for the ones who might be interested in the personal.

This one is about my relationship with my religion.

 I’ve got a hard relationship with Judaism.

On one hand I feel very Jewish- my identity is very much as a Jew, at least culturally.  I had a Bar Mitzvah, I went to Israel, I can read Hebrew (although my understanding is limited) I went to Hebrew High School (The Harry Elkin Midrasha), and even taught there for two years.  I know the blessings by heart, or mostly, I have Passover Seders in my house, we occasionally have Shabbat, and I can “Oy vey” and “Nu, so…” with the best of them. I married a Jewish woman, and we stepped on the glass. I cry at Fiddler on the Roof.  I’m also a big fan of Bagels and Lox, brisket, and knishes. Kashe not so much.  And guilt?  Do I know about guilt! Well, that’s part of the reason for this blog post.

 I want my son to know Judaism.  I want him to have a Bar Mitzvah, and know the blessings over wine, and bread, and matzah.  I want him to know what a lulav and an etrog are, to know the sounds of the Shofar being blown, I want that to be part of his identity, for him to feel connected to this group of people who have struggled over great adversity and managed to survive for thousands of years.  He is part of that struggle, as I am, and as my parents were before me, and their parents before them.

On the other hand, I am not a practicing Jew. I don’t fast on Yom Kippur, don’t eat matzah at Passover, don’t regularly stop working on Shabbat, or even light the candles.  I eat pork and shellfish with abandon.  I’m not a member of a synagogue, I don’t go to synagogue with any kind of regularity (and when I do go, I kind of resent it)  I have a great doubt that any of those things will help me in an afterlife I don’t think I believe in and haven’t gotten much spiritual comfort from.

I don’t think I’d go so far as to say I’m an atheist, I believe there is some Creator, but not one that I have a “personal relationship” with or cares whether or not I work on Shabbat, or eat cheeseburgers. And while I feel a part of the grander scheme of Judaism, I have never felt a part of an individual community of Judaism.  Maybe for about 10 minutes, but certainly not on a sustained level.

The most spiritually moved I’ve felt has been at the theatre, and occasionally while sitting on a rock jetty with my back to the shore, watching the waves roll in.  (Oh my god, my spiritualism is a tampon commercial!)

When my parents were alive, I went to synagogue, and fasted at Yom Kippur, and didn’t eat bread during Passover, and all those other things. I didn’t keep kosher, but neither did my parents.  But I kind of felt that I was doing it for my mom, and not for me, and when she passed away, I decided to stop.  Since then, I have become increasingly more ornery about practicing Judaism.

When my wife and I lived in NY, we were part of a synagogue, but I never felt very close to that community.  Perhaps because it was my wife’s community, perhaps because soon after I started going there was a great deal of flux due to the spiritual leader leaving, perhaps because my wife got involved in the behind-the-scenes of synagogue politics, and I saw the worst of it.

In the Passover Haggadah there is a parable about the four sons, the wise, the wicked, the simple, and the one who doesn’t know enough to ask.  Each has a question about what is going on, and you are supposed to answer each differently.

When I was younger, I always cast myself as the wise son, the one who includes himself, and asks the question “What did God command us to do?”   but now I’m pretty sure I’m the wicked son, the one who holds himself apart from the group, and asks the question, “What did God command YOU to do?”

(a kind of funny film demonstrates this parable below)

So I’m in a quandary– I feel like I’m Jewish, but don’t really believe in (or do) all of the stuff that makes one Jewish.  And I want my son to be Jewish, or at least know about Judaism.  But I’m setting him a bad example, at least as a Jew.  

I’m sure I’m not alone.

I feel like I have two choices–

1) fake it ’til I make it.  Set a better example as a Jew, even though I am not getting much out of it. That might mean more synagogue time for me, more fasting, more “Religion for the sake of religion” instead of for the sake of me.

2) Don’t fake it. Explain as best I can why I want him to be involved and knowledgeable, and when the inevitable charges of hypocrisy come, parry them by letting him know that when he’s18, he can make his own decisions.

Is there a third option?  Or a fourth option? For those of you who are religious doubters, what are you doing to help give your child/children a basis in religion?

My Son’s Pretty Perfect Day

Every once in a while, you get a perfect day.  Everything seems to go your way, and you get to fit a little bit of all of your favorites in.

You can’t quite plan it like that.  It just happens.

Yesterday, there was no school because of Report Card Pickup, so we planned accordingly.  Everything fell into place, and  here’s the rundown of my son’s perfect day.

Helping me with my Blog Project (more to come soon!)
  • Got to sleep in until around 7 (he’s normally up at 6 am, as school starts at 7:30 am)
  • Then he got to play video games until about 8:30
  • I made him his favorite breakfast (pancakes and a cereal bar and strawberries)
  • After that, he helped me with a blog project/household project.  He got to use my video camera to help me document stuff for my blog.  He also got to pretend to be a superhero, and fight off the evil Toilet Fill Valve of Doom.
  • We got dressed and went to Report card pickup, where he got straight A’s.
    Straight A’s for the bear!
  • After that we went to the Post Office to get his passport taken care of so that we can go on a wild European adventure this summer.
  • We then went to his friend’s house in preparation to going to our first Cubs game of the year.
  • It was a little cold, so his friend gave him a jacket that was too small, and is now his to keep!
  • At the game, he got to eat his favorite meal (chicken nuggets)
  • At the game, we hung out with his friend for a while, and then also saw his cousin, and her boyfriend, who had great seats behind the dugout.  The boyfriend is kind of a kid rockstar. While we were visiting them there, an opposing player gave my son a game ball!
  • It was getting too cold, and the Cubs were losing 4-2, so we left the game in the sixth inning and got a donut on the way back to his friend’s house.
    At the Cubs-Brewers game with his friend.
  • At his friend’s house, the friend realized that they’d bought some extra Skylander games at a flea market that they already had and he generously gave them to my son.
  • We left the friend’s house to purportedly get a special treat for having straight A’s.  What my son didn’t know is that we had tickets for the opening night of Aladdin.  The Cubs were still losing.   
We arrived at Aladdin.  He had no idea!
  • We had dinner at Roti, and my son got to eat his favorite Pita.

  • Our seats were in the dress circle, so were EXCELLENT!
  • The show was phenomenal (Look for a review coming soon!)
  • At the intermission, he got M and Ms.
  • At the end of the show, we took the subway home, where a very nice lady let him watch the end of the Dodgers/Rockies game on her phone. (I allowed it)
  • While we were on the El home, we discovered that the Cubs scored 4 in the ninth inning to come back and win the game!
  • When we got home, his mom was waiting for him to give him a big hug and kiss and ask about the show.

We planned some of this, but not all.  Some of it just happened.  It wasn’t until it was almost over that I realized that he had a nearly perfect day, and got to do just about everything he loves to do in one day.  I mentioned it to him and he agreed.

What’s in your perfect day?

Plumbing the Depths of My Confidence With DIYZ

 Sometimes, it’s not what you know about home improvement, it’s what you don’t know that is important.

Disclosure: I am a compensated DIYZ-sponsored blogger. Opinions are 100% my own.

Check out the hashtag #DIYGuys to find other cool posts about the app.

If you’d like to check out DIYZ, The DIYZ App is free to download and is available in the Apple App Store for iPhone and Google Play for Android. For a limited time, the video chat feature is FREE!
My son and I are a little afraid of the evil toilet fill valve.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not a plumber, nor do I play one on TV.  I don’t have any real plumbing skills or experience to speak of.

My experience with plumbing usually entails checking out the issue, despairing a little, freaking out a lot, and finally calling a plumber who then comes over, charges a whole lot of money to do nearly nothing, while the whole time I watch like a hawk, trying to figure out what he’s doing so I won’t have to call him next time.

One time, a guy came and literally just flicked the switch to fix a problem.  It cost me $150 to have him do that.  As he explained as I wrote the check- “It’s not what I did that you are paying for- it’s the knowledge to do what I did.”  Needless to say, I never called that guy again.

Over the years I have gained a little bit of knowledge.  But it’s not just knowledge that you need.  It’s the confidence to use that knowledge.  And that’s not something I have a lot of.


 I’ve recently discovered  the DIYZ app, which is a mobile app that helps Do It Yourselfers with a lack of confidence or knowledge to complete projects around the house.   DIYZ stands for “Do It Yourself.  Do It Wise.”

Here’s what I like about the DIYZ app:

  • They have a vast list of over 50 home improvement projects that can be accomplished.
  • They have easy to understand step-by-step videos that display clearly how to complete each project.
  • They have TRAINED PROFESSIONALS on call who are ready to video chat with you to help solve any problems that might arise. If video chat isn’t your thing, you can send them photos they can annotate, or just talk over the phone.
  • They have a project materials/tools list that you can purchase directly on Amazon or you can take the list straight to your local hardware store, 

It’s perfect for guys like me with a dangerous amount of knowledge (read: just a little) and a lack of confidence.

(As mentioned above, this is a sponsored post, and I’m being compensated for writing it, but my opinions and experiences are my own)

Currently, their video specialists are free to chat with!  (I imagine that will change over time.  After all, there is no such thing as a free lunch.  Or a free plumbing consult!)

ENTER THE TOILET

The Project I chose to do.

Our downstairs toilet has had problems for a while.  I’ve thought of just having the whole toilet replaced, but financially that doesn’t make sense.  It still works, it just doesn’t work great.  One of the biggest problems has always been that once you flush, the water doesn’t get into it fast enough.  As I mentioned above, I am not a plumber, but it seemed to me that the water valve was to blame.  Occasionally I’d get no water through it, and if I opened the tank and massaged the water valve a little, a tiny stream would come out.  When I was looking for a good DIYZ project to try out the service, this is one of the projects on the DIYZ list! SCORE!

I went to the local hardware store and showed them the picture of what I was trying to replace.  They informed me it was a toilet fill valve.  I purchased it (they only had one generic one, but apparently the fixtures are all the same.)

My 8-year-old son was with me helping me out.  He videotaped and took some photographs, and of course, dressed up like a Pikacsuper hero with a sword and bow and arrow. Because, WHY NOT?

I took home my purchases and opened up the packaging.  I looked at the directions which were amazingly complicated, and started to despair. But then I remembered DIYZ!  I watched their  4-step video on ADJUSTING OR REPLACING A TOILET FILL VALVE.  It looked pretty easy…

An unscheduled stop to … review the intructions.

And it was! I completed the project on my own, with the help of my assistant!

From reviewing the diagrams and the videos and the old valve (with an unscheduled stop to … ummm… use the facilities)  I was able to figure it out.  And when I turned the water back on and flushed the toilet, I was amazed to discover that it all worked properly! I felt like a plumbing hero!

I’m sure that an actual plumber would have been able to fix this in nothing flat without the anxiety or fear, but it would have cost a lot more.  And now I have more confidence to go on and do the next project! (And as my wife never fails to remind me, there are plenty of projects available to do in my house if I would only set my mind to them!)
The plumbing hero battles against the evil Toilet Valve!
And conquers it!  All is right in the world!

This was an easy project to do and I would definitely use the DIYZ app again.  The how-to video was very clear, but what I like most about it is the possibility of on-call help when you need it.  (And the fact that it turned out I didn’t need it was even cooler!)  

I am now looking for other projects around the house that might be on the DIYZ list. (Looking around, I see that INSTALL A DOOR SWEEP is also on the list, and that’s something that is on my list as well!) As I mentioned there are over 50 projects, including building a breakfast tray, replacing a light fixture, installing a USB outlet, and much more.

If you’d like to check out DIYZ,  it is free to download and is available in the Apple App Store for iPhone and Google Play for Android. For a limited time, the video chat feature is FREE! (Please note: Video hours are limited currently.  Check the app for details)

Here’s a video of my son helping me.  He says in the video that it is his first time using a sponge.  I don’t know if that’s really true, he’s at the very beginning of his plumbing career from this project I know he’s building confidence to do his own plumbing projects in the future!




Fatherhood is a two way street: #thanksBaby

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion.  All thoughts and stories are my own.

As I did last year, I am happy to celebrate Father’s Day as an ambassador for the Pampers: #thanksbaby campaign.

Pampers wants  to remind dads everywhere that fatherhood is a two-way street.  This is a great message and it tracks strongly with my own experience.

As our babies turn into toddlers and our toddlers turn into children and our children turn into young adults, they are learning and growing from us, and SIMULTANEOUSLY  we are learning and growing from them.

I may have told this story before but it bears repeating.

Me and my newborn son! 

I am a late to life father- I was 44 when my son was born.

I had a whole bunch of fears when my son was born.  I knew that my work as a touring performer and clown was going to have to radically change, that I was going to be the primary caregiver for my child.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about that.  I had been making my living as an artist for over 20 years and I didn’t know if I was going to be capable (or want to do something else)  

I was also really scared that I wouldn’t be up to the task of caring for an infant: of feeding it properly, of changing its dirty diapers (#thanksPampers!  You were a total lifesaver on that one!), of stopping him or her from crying or soothing them to sleep.

A caricature done of us at the Hudson River Museum

My biggest fear was that at the end of the day I wouldn’t be happy- that the change in my life that I was going to get as a father/dad wouldn’t make me happier than I was as a relatively successful artist.

I spent my life as an artist avoiding responsibilities in order to be happy.  I didn’t have any plants so that I could tour at a moment’s notice.  I lived in an apartment that I could literally shut up for three months without having to worry about anything going wrong.  (Well not too much)

But it turns out that I was up to all of those challenges and more.  Not only that, but adding responsibilities to my life made me happier– something that was completely counterintuitive to me.

I can confidently say that I have never been happier as a person since I became a dad.  And my happiness continues to grow as he gets older.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

When my son was a baby I learned from him to sleep whenever there was an opportunity, to relish moments of play, to get down on the floor and look up from his perspective.

I definitely didn’t throw away my shot. (and neither did he!)

When my son was a toddler I re-learned how to wonder at the world, to answer the question why multiple times, and to get deliriously happy when there are small gains:  First words, first steps, first poop in the toilet.

My son is 8 now, and the diapering days are long past me (although I am sad to say that occasionally I do need to remind him to wipe better.) Hey it happens to everyone. But at least I don’t have to wipe him anymore!)

I am still learning and growing from him.  He’s introducing me to his favorite books (Ranger’s Apprentice and the Indian In the Cupboard) and we’re discussing the crazy plotting that is Star Wars, and the intricacies of Hamilton rap/rhymes. (with a stern admonition that some words may only be sung!)

 Earlier this year we worked on his first science fair project together, and we have even geeked out over fidget spinners.  I’ve been coaching his basketball team and he’s getting better as a player, even as I get better as a coach.

I can’t wait for the next phase!

#THANKSBABY

When a baby is born, a dad is born. This Father’s Day, Pampers is encouraging dads to give thanks to their kids for making them feel special, and to recognize how babies (and children) help the dad to grow along the journey of fatherhood.

Please join them by tweeting or instagramming how your baby changed your life with the hashtag #ThanksBaby.

Here’s a great video from Pampers to remind us dads to thank our kids for making us dads
Happy Fathers Day from me! (and from Pampers!)

Happy Father’s Day!

Want to wish you all a very happy Father’s day!

My son gave me a very nice Father’s Day Card. It’s a nesting card, with 5 different panels, that are supposed to be all about me. Clearly done at school, but fun.  A few days ago he was asking me about my favorite movie, my favorite color, and my favorite foods, so I kind of thought this might be where this was heading.

Still it paints a strange picture of me as a bird-hating, bird killing Diet coke drinking clown/fiend of indeterminate weight who desires a moped, eats pizza all the time, has high brow taste in movies, wants to win the lottery, and lets his son speedskate and go to camp.

Except for the bird-killing part, he’s kind of got me down!

I decided to do this now for my dad, for when I was 8. (that would be Father’s Day 1972, which happens to be the first “Official Father’s Day” in April of that year when Nixon signed Public Law 92-278 in April.  ) The day was Sunday June 18, 1972, just like this year!

Here’s mine about my dad at that time:  (along with my son’s answers for reference)

ALL ABOUT:

NAME: Alan
AGE:  34 (He turned 35 Aug 1, 1972)
EYES: HAZEL
HAIR: BALD
HEIGHT: 6’1″

FAVORITES:
FOOD: Chinese food
DRINK: Gingerale
MOVIE: The Sting
SPORTS: Watching Baseball
CHORE: Going to work

DREAM BIG: 
I know you want to travel and play bridge.  I know you want to go to Disneyworld.  I know you want me to work with my head and not my hands.  I know you want me to mow the lawn.

NO THANKS:
I know you don’t like insects.  I know you want to have a dog.  I know you don’t want to mow the lawn. I know you don’t like to argue with Mom.

PORTRAIT:

5 REASONS WHY I LOVE YOU:

1. You are really smart and good at math.
2. You play games with me.
3. You like to tell funny jokes
4. You share your candy with me.
5. You are very generous to other people.

I Love you, Dad!

Barcelona is Amazing! Wish You Were Here!

We’ve been in Barcelona for a little over 2 weeks, and I have barely written about it on this blog.

And what’s even worse is that we have less than a week to go!  So much still to do, and so much to write about!

I apologize!  I have so  much to write about– I’ve been loving spending this extended time in Barcelona, and you can find photos and brief observations on my personal facebook page (many of them are public, so even if you don’t know me personally you can take a gander), my twitter account, and my instagram.   (And I urge you to follow me on those last two if you don’t already!)

A post shared by Adam G (@kafclown) on

Rather than write a step by step chronological account of our time in Barcelona (as I did for our shorter 6 day London extravaganza:  See here for a sample post about a couple of our London days.)

I think that I’m going to try to write about different themes of our time in Barcelona.  The food.  The art.  The fun.  The joys and troubles of parenting a kid on vacation in a foreign country.

The Magic Fountain of Montjuic:  It first started entertaining people in 1929.  Now, thousands of people attend every show!
My son, in the Nativity Tower of La Sagrada Familia.
It’s a long long long way down!

Some of those posts might morph into longer reviews (for example, we spent a delightful day at the second oldest amusement park in Europe (Tibidabo) and had a whole bunch  of fun.  That’s worth a whole post in itself.  Or the day we went to go see the Castellers perform (it’s an ancient Catalan tradition where teams from different cities practice making human pyramids of different shapes and dimensions.  People from all walks of life get together to perform on this team as part of a civic pride and just fun.

Or La Sagrada Familia, the masterpiece of architectural madman and genius Gaudi, who designed this massive and breathtaking church knowing they would not be completed in his lifetime.  It is expected to be completed in 2026, 100 years after his death!

Or just about any of Gaudi’s works, which are all over the city!

Selfie in front of La Catedral in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter

Or  Las Ramblas, one of the main touristy streets of Barcelona, which has all kinds of walking and touring right outside of it (and most importantly, leads directly into the Gothic Quarter, a series of winding streets and shops and cathedrals and colleges and tapas bars and markets and all sorts of other great stuff for a tourist such as myself  (and my intrepid son) to get lost in and around.

I love getting lost in the Gothic quarter, because you never know what will be around the corner of the little winding street.  It could be an ice cream shop, or the public library with homeless men playing chess with tourists, or it could be some 15nth century sculpture garden that has somehow managed to remain undisturbed for all these years.

On Las Ramblas, there is a fountain (The Canaletes Fountain)  whose plaque reads (translated) “If you drink water from the Canaletes Fountain, you’ll fall in love with Barcelona forever and no matter how far away you go, you’ll always return.”

Let it just be said:  I drank from the fountain!

A post shared by Adam G (@kafclown) on

So bear with me, and stick around, as I slowly get around to writing about this amazing city.

 Even after I’ve returned to my own city!
(cue the song My Sweet Home Chicago by Buddy Guy and Jr. Wells!)

Barcelona: When Terrorism Hits Home

This is not the blogpost I wanted to write about Barcelona.

I wanted to write about the fantastic museum my son and I saw yesterday morning, just off the end of Las Ramblas, (yes, the same street as the terrorist attack)  the Maritime Museum of Barcelona (MMB), which features an amazing exhibit about one of the galleys that was built there, and a full length replica of one of the amazing galleys(you can’t go on it, but you can view it from a number of angles.  The exhibit is interactive, has computer games for kids to play (when you build a ship, where does the raw materials come from?  A game about all of the trades needed to build the ship, and an explanation of the process of building a ship)  It also has 6 other exhibits,  as well as a great cafe, a submarine in its courtyard, a historic ship on the harbor, and is housed in a building that has been there for 2000 years.

I wanted to write about the Bjork exhibit that I saw yesterday afternoon, at the Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCB), a VR tour into Bjork’s mind and discography, where I and 20 other strangers were led into her strange, sometimes overwrought, strangely optimistic world. It features a collaboration with David Attenborough, an explanation of her app about her last album, and a new way of thinking about composing music.  Here in Barcelona, I’ve worn an Oculus Rift at a museum about 10 times in 4 different exhibits.  Barcelona is state of the art when it comes to museums.

I wanted to write about how much my family and I have been loving our 3 week sojourn in Barcelona, of having the luxury to explore a city that is so full of culture and architecture and food and life that it would take another 9 weeks just to get to know, and we probably wouldn’t even see everything then.  About how we were leaving in 2 days, but we are already planning our return.

I wanted to write about all the fabulous adventures that we are having, and how I am so far in the weeds about writing about this stuff.

But as a rock and roll icon once explained, over bass and drums,


“You can’t always get what you want.”

Instead, I’m writing about how close we got to what was clearly a terrorist attack, and how we had to explain to my almost 9-year-old child why the store closed down and no one was allowed on the streets.

Las Ramblas, the street where it happened, not only runs through the center of Barcelona, it runs through the center of our Barcelona experience   We are living in an apartment about 1/2 mile away, up the same street (Ramblas de Catalunya)  The subway line, our bus line, even one of the supermarkets we shopped in were right there at the Plaza de Catalunya.

The day of the attack my son and I traveled under the street where s we the attack occurred at around 12 noon.   We have walked the stretch the van drove countless times in the 3 weeks that we have been in Barcelona.   Out of the 20 days we’ve spent in Barcelona, we’ve touched Plaza de Catalunya and Las Ramblas on about 17 of them.

WHERE WE WERE:

When the attack occurred, I was in a museum 3 blocks away, and had walked on the street where it happened, trod on the Miro mural that is now marred with victim’s blood at around 3 pm that same day.  I went into the Boqueria, just off the strip, to buy a juice and a snack to take to the museum.

My wife and son were out shopping on Las Ramblas, getting treats and gifts for family on the way home.  They had eaten at the McDonalds on Las Ramblas (my son’s first McDonalds in 3 weeks, a near miracle!) at around 3:30 pm.

It is not quite a miracle, but incredibly fortunate that we weren’t there when it occurred.  We could have been.  If I had left the museum early, I would have probably walked over there to walk home (or if I were feeling really tired, pick up the subway and go 2 stops.  My wife could have easily been on Las Ramblas getting ice cream or candy instead of the Gothic Quarter, two blocks away.

I wasn’t with my wife and kid when it happened.  They were in a candy shop when they heard a lot of yelling.  They said there was an accident on Las Ramblas.  They went to an ice cream store nearby, and that’s when they closed the shutters and told people to wait.  If you have to be locked in somewhere, an ice cream store is a pretty good place to be.  While they were in the ice cream store, my son cried twice– once while in the store and once when leaving.  My wife was freaked out also, but stayed strong for him.  My wife was in NY during 9/11, so she knows about terrorism.

My watch kept on buzzing during my VR time (I had joined the museum’s wifi) and when I had a moment, I noticed I had some inquiries asking if I was OK.  I checked wifi, texted my wife, and that’s when I learned what had happened.  I got ready to leave the museum when I was told we couldn’t leave yet– the museum was closed   I finally got to leave, and gave Plaza de Catalunya a wide berth, ended up walking up a street I hadn’t yet walked up.  My wife and son did the same, but on the other side of Plaza de Catalunya, stopping at a friend’s house along the way to get a cold drink, take in the news, and check in with family and friends.

AFTERMATH

When we were all finally home together, (AROUND 8 PM) we had a nice big long family hug and a chat about what was going on.  My son was rightfully scared, and I explained to him that people do bad things to get attention, to wake people up a little, to scare people into not living their lives.  But it’s important that we continue on with our lives because if we don’t, that means that their bad tactics worked.  And we can’t let that happen.

I’ve said similar to him before when I’ve had to explain some of the sad state in our world, (9/11, Donald Trump, London Bridge)  but I’ve never meant it more.

Today, my son asked me if there was another attack. We opened the windows, and it’s a bright sunny day.  Many of the museums, and the big festival that we were going to go to has been cancelled to mourn for the dead. We’ll spend the day packing, and eating, and walking around this great city.

 It’s our last day in Barcelona for a while, but we’ll be back.  

Selfie of the 3 of us near the top of Park Guell

PS- while writing this blog post, I asked my son to write his journal of yesterday.  He’s cried a couple of times more and doesn’t want to write about what happened because he doesn’t want to remember, so clearly, this isn’t over for him.  I’m okay with him not writing today, but I want him to remember, because I want him to remember what you do when cowards and bullies and bigots and racists and crazy people try to terrorize you.

Stand your ground, continue onwards, and persevere.

Our hearts are with all those families who were less fortunate than us and were affected, injured or killed during this tragedy.

Blink! The bear turns 9!

My son turned 9 yesterday.  It’s a bit of a whirlwind!

9 years ago I was a brand new dad.  I actually have a video of him right after birth.

 

He has grown so much over the last 9 years.  (and so have I, although mostly in a circular direction)

It seems like it was yesterday that I was singing “Did the bear make a poo to him.”

 On the day before his ninth birthday, we arrived at my wife’s parents beach house. My wife and I were downstairs getting stuff ready for bed, and we heard laughing upstairs. We listened, and it was my son regaling his aunt and his grandmother with a story that we hadn’t heard. They were laughing uproariously as he told the story, and you could tell that he was timing his jokes, and stretching out his jokes, just like a storyteller!

My wife and I looked at each other with wonder. When had he learned to do that? When did he become a person?

It happened all of a sudden. I’m not sure if I could pinpoint the time and the place.  One day he was in the stroller, and the next day he was on the skateboard.

 I’ve said this before, but when they are little babies, everybody says “Oh it will go by so fast!” And you think to yourself- “Liar! It’s going so slowly. I’ve been up for hours, and I closed my eyes and it’s just 20 minutes later!”

 But guess what– it goes by SO fast!

 Here’s a set of photos one per year, showing him growing up:  The photos are not quite random, but aren’t any one day, or one mood. We have so many photos of him, and he has so many moods.

2009
2010
2011
2012
2013

2014
2015

2016

2017

This is the latest video of him, blowing out his ninth birthday cake candles, while his cousin raps Hamilton in the background.

When I blink again, he’s going to be graduating college!